ARTS / FILM
Warner Bros film about theft of Chinese relics looted from China’s Old Summer Palace provokes outrage among Chinese netizens
Published: Mar 01, 2021 07:28 PM
The Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing was burned and ransacked by British and French troops, while the Anglo-French expedition force invaded China during the Second Opium War in 1860. Photo: VCG

The Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing was burned and ransacked by British and French troops, while the Anglo-French expedition force invaded China during the Second Opium War in 1860. Photo: VCG


Warner Bros' new film production The Great Chinese Art Heist, about a robbery at France's Palace of Fontainebleau, during which Chinese relics having originally looted from Beijing's Old Summer Palace were stolen, has sparked an uproar among Chinese netizens as the film is based on a controversial article by US fashion magazine GQ.

According to reports, the movie will be filmed based on a GQ story published in 2018. The article listed a series of robberies that took place in Europe involving looted Chinese antiquities in European museums, mainly those looted during the razing of the Old Summer Palace by Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860 and later asks a ridiculous question: "Is China's government behind the art theft wave?" 

Chinese authorities and cultural relic's experts once refuted the article and its implication that the "Chinese government was behind the theft"of these overseas treasures.

Many Chinese netizens have flooded social media with posts opposing the film and claiming that the production team is trying to cover up the crime committed by Western forces in China. 

"Why don't they make a film to show how the rude Anglo-French Allied Forces razed our country's ancient cultural relics?" one Chinese netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.

"This is ridiculous! You stole our country's cultural relics, and now you are going to make a film framing China for stealing these lost relics. This is called 'covering up one's misdeeds by shifting the blame onto others,'" another netizen commended.

Chen Hui, director of the Department of Cultural Relics and Archaeology at the Old Summer Palace, once told the Global Times that many of the lost relics looted from the Old Summer Palace are on display at the Chinese Museum on the grounds of the Palace of Fontainebleau.

According to media reports, in 2015, thieves broken into the Palace of Fontainebleau and stole 20 Chinese artifacts including a priceless enamel piece that dates from the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-191) in a lightning raid. The case caused a sensation worldwide.

"It does not make sense if the film relates the theft in France to the Chinese government. The whole conspiracy theory is too far-fetched," Huo Zhengxin, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times, calling the GQ article "nonsense."

Warner Bros also announced that the director of the film will be Jon M. Chu, who is famous for his hit 2018 Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians.

"The background of Chinese-American director Chu, the source of the film - GQ's unfriendly report - and the film's name shows that it solely fits the Western mainstream image of China," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

"I personally think that this film is probably not considering the Chinese market or Chinese audience's expectations for the film," Xiao added.


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